NPA to prosecute initiation ‘culturepreneurs’

2014-06-03 12:57

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has finally decided to prosecute all those responsible for deaths in Mpumalanga’s initiation schools.

The decision follows a 12-month police investigation after 28 boys died in various initiation schools in the former KwaNdebele area in Mpumalanga in May last year while they were attending ingoma – an Ndebele ritual of initiating boys into manhood.

Ndebele boys attend the two-month ingoma ritual every fourth year in the bush. It involves teachings about manhood and circumcision – done by traditional surgeons.

Postmortem results from the Mpumalanga health department indicated that the boys died from hypothermia, haemorrhage and unnatural causes at various initiation schools in Kwaggafontein, KwaMhlanga, Verena, Delmas, Siyabuswa, Belfast and Middelburg.

NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube said four medical doctors, 18 traditional circumcisers (surgeons) and one circumcision principal would stand trial for 24 counts of culpable homicide, two counts of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and 12 counts of contravening section 12 (8) or 9 of the Children’s Act.

The Children’s Act, said Mncube, prohibited the circumcision of children below the age of 16 and, in certain circumstances, if they were between 16 and 18.

Mncube said an inquest would be held on three deaths.

He said the decision had taken a long time due to the number of investigations the police had to undertake.

“We think it was a swift investigation considering the number of cases. Sometimes, dockets have to be sent back to the investigators and it takes longer to decide whether to prosecute or not,” Mncube said.

The Mpumalanga health department pointed fingers at people who operated illegal schools that were not sanctioned by King Mabhoko III – one of two Ndebele kings in Mpumalanga.

Departmental spokesperson Ronnie Masilela was not available to comment.

Chairperson of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, Kgoshi Mathibela Mokoena, said the NPA’s decision was welcomed.

“We’re looking forward to the trial of those people who tarnish the image of a noble tradition. There were people who operated illegal initiation schools and refused to send the boys to registered ones when they were told to do so,” Mokoena said.

Traditional leaders have been blaming the deaths of initiates on greedy individuals who wanted to make cash from the tradition.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi described these individuals as “culturepreneurs”.

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